As Texans crank up their air conditioning to beat the heat this week, ERCOT has issued a ‘voluntary conservation notice’ asking everyone to reduce their energy use. During peak hours, demand gets precariously close to the limit of what the grid can supply, creating a risk for rolling blackouts. While there have been some localized power outages in the last week due to storms and other factors, the larger grid is holding up so far.
That hasn’t stopped Democrats from attacking the governor and Republican leadership for what they say is a failure to “fix the grid.” The attack is duplicitous and hypocritical. If they truly believed the problem with the system is that it doesn’t provide all the energy Texans need, then the “fix” would be to ensure Texans’ access to more reliable energy. But that contradicts leftwing environmental orthodoxy. They don’t want people using more, they want Texans using less – “conserve,” as they put it. But coercing Texans to turn off their air conditioning in the summer doesn’t “fix the grid.”
As my colleague Brent Bennett notes, since 2018, demand in the summer has been exceeding the output of reliable generators and we are relying on variable sources, like wind and solar, to make sure the lights stay on. When it’s sunny during the day, solar does well to close the gap, while wind is virtually non-existent.
But fast forward a few months to the winter, when it’s neither sunny nor windy, and there’s nothing to close the gap in an extreme weather event. Market-distorting subsidies for wind and solar have de-incentivized the creation of new reliable thermal generators and caused the early retirement of several large coal and gas power plants. Addressing that imbalance in our market is how you “fix the grid” without making customers pay through the nose for backup power when the wind and sun drop off.